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Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Draft positional preview: Defensive back

By Ohm Youngmisuk

This is the ninth and final installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Secondary.

Depth chart: CB Corey Webster, CB Prince Amukamara, CB Aaron Ross, CB Jayron Hosley, CB Terrell Thomas, S Antrel Rolle, S Stevie Brown, S Will Hill, S Ryan Mundy, S Tyler Sash, CB Antonio Dennard, CB Buddy Jackson, DB Laron Scott, DB David Caldwell, DB Trumaine McBride, DB Terrence Frederick.

The departed: S Kenny Phillips (Philadelphia), CB Justin Tryon (free agent), CB Brian Witherspoon (free agent).

Scouting report: Webster needs a bounce-back season. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Webster’s eight touchdowns surrendered through the air were tied for second-most at his position.

Amukamara was solid last season and continues to look like a player who is steadily improving. Jerry Reese re-signed Ross to provide an experienced third cornerback although Hosley could compete for that spot as well. Thomas is attempting a third comeback from ACL surgery and will work as hard as anyone. But the Giants and Thomas must take things slow and whatever he can contribute should be a bonus.

The Giants let Phillips walk after seeing Brown lead the team with eight interceptions last year. With Phillips gone, Rolle’s status as a leader will increase even more. Reese added another young player with potential by signing Mundy to add depth. Hill flashed glimpses of being the athletic third safety Perry Fewell can use. Sash is a key special teams player and will push Mundy and Hill in camp.

The last time: The Giants drafted a defensive back in Hosley in the third round in 2012.

Potential targets: Since taking over as GM in 2007, Reese has drafted more defensive backs in the first round (Ross, Phillips and Amukamara) than any other position. While the Giants need an offensive lineman like Alabama's D.J. Fluker, it would not be a surprise to see Reese grab a safety at 19 if his top target is gone.

The Giants have a need for a safety in 2014. Phillips is gone, Brown is on a one-year tender and Rolle will be entering the final year of his deal in 2014. Drafting a safety high gives the Giants a safety to groom and insurance in case Brown isn't the answer or Rolle's contract ($7 million base salary for next season) becomes to big a burden on the cap (remember, the Giants want to sign Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to extensions).

Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro is considered to be the best and the Giants like Vaccaro. The Giants need an offensive lineman but if their target is not there, they could go for Vaccaro. Vaccaro, though, may not not be there at 19. The Giants also like LSU’s Eric Reid. If Reese doesn't think Reid will be there in the second round, he could take the LSU safety in the first round if his other targets are gone.

If the Giants don't get one of those two safeties, Florida’s Matt Elam, FIU’s John Cyprien and South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger are other safeties that could go in the second round.

Syracuse’s Shamarko Thomas, Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas and Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo could be mid-round options. Other possible safeties for later rounds are USC’s T.J. McDonald, Georgia’s Shawn Williams and Notre Dame’s Zeke Motta. California (Pa.) S Rontez Miles is on the Giants’ radar according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

The Giants definitely need another cornerback for depth and one who could be a potential starter or third corner for 2014 and beyond. Ross and Thomas are on one-year deals and, for all intents and purposes, so is Webster. The top corners are Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Washington’s Desmond Trufant and Houston’s D.J. Hayden. Milliner is not expected to be there at 19 but then again Amukamara dropped to Reese a few years back.

Trufant has reportedly had impressive showings at the combine and his pro day and Hayden’s stock reportedly is on the rise.

Other corners who could be available after 19 are Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, Boise State’s Jamar Taylor, UConn’s Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks.

If the Giants opt to take a corner in the second-to-fourth-round range, the most intriguing name is LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu. The former Heisman candidate is a risk-reward case but the Giants have a built-in mentor in Webster. And Mathieu could help bolster the Giants’ return game. Another corner that might help with the return game is William and Mary’s B.W. Webb.

"I love B.W. Webb," NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said in a conference call. "Great feet, change of direction, competed at the Senior Bowl. I think what's going to keep him in the late second round discussion is his return skills. It's not a great punt return class, and he's one of the top three or four punt returners in the country."

Mississippi State’s Darius Slay, Southeastern Louisiana’s Robert Alford, Rutgers’ Logan Ryan, UConn’s Dwayne Gratz, USC’s Nickell Robey, Iowa’s Micah Hyde, Miami’s Brandon McGee and Michigan State’s Johnny Adams are other cornerback prospects for later in the draft.

But keep an eye on what the Giants do at safety in this draft and perhaps as early as 19 if an offensive lineman like Fluker is not available.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 9.